LA QUINTA — Joseph “Joe” Johnson, a city of La Quinta Housing Commissioner and retired investigator for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, is aiming to secure of two open seats on the City Council.
At 68, Johnson has lived in La Quinta for seven years.
Johnson is one of five people vying for one of the two, four-year terms. The others are:
- John Peña, incumbente
- Robert Radi, incumbent
- Dante Gomez
- Brian Hanrahan
Mayor Linda Evans is unopposed in her bid for re-election.
“Like many Californians, I am conservative in some issues, liberal in others,” Johnson told Uken Report. “I believe government is to serve the people, not those in the government.”
There are a number of reasons, Johnson said, that he is running again. He ran unsuccessfully in 2016 and had the lowest number of votes among the five candidates.
“I feel I let my city down last time,” Johnson told Uken Report. “I was unprepared, underfunded and did not properly get my message out. I was the only person running for a Council seat who was against the sales tax increase of 1 percent. Not everyone who voted against that increase voted for me, and if they did I would have won a seat.”
Johnson said he also wasn’t as prepared for all of the issues as he could have, or should have been. Speaking out about the SilverRock debacle was not enough, he said. Since then, he said he has made it his business to learn as much as possible. He secured a seat on the Housing Commission, attends or watches online every City Council meeting, and also attends many of the other commission meetings.
Following are a series of questions Uken Report posed to Johnson and his responses:
- What is the single biggest issue facing La Quinta? Fiscal responsibility, so revenue is not the driving force over quality of life. The city is diverse. We have many different types of family units. Singles (both young, old, and in between), couples (of various gender preferences), ethnicity, economic status, as well as various size families. Each have their own needs, some of which is dependent on government to provide. In every case they have in common the desire to live safe and healthy lives and maintain or improve their overall quality of life. Not every issue will satisfy every group, but all must be considered before affecting others, especially those without a loud voice.
- Where (in what area) do you think you can make the biggest difference? In the movie World War Z, it was brought to my attention that the reason Israel was not yet devastated by the zombies was because of what they called the Tenth Man. I looked it up and it was based on a real policy. Just before the 1973 Yom Kippor war, no one believed that Israel would be attacked. Afterwards, the Israeli Defense Force made a policy of what they called the devil’s advocate, where it was the duty if all members agreed on something that one person be opposed and look for flaws in their argument. That person was the Tenth Man. We have a City Council where almost every vote is 5-0, often with little or no meaningful discussion. Being that devil’s advocate helps reveal errors and weakness in plans with flaws, and makes even good plans better. I have been vocal in commission meetings and study groups, often against the majority, and have helped make good ideas better and have shown the flaws in bad ideas. I am that Tenth Man.
- What separates you from your challengers? I am not them. This is not to disparage anyone on the Council or anyone running for office. I think it is admirable to offer services to help the people of this city. What I am saying is that I am not looking to be on the Council to make friends. There will be no more automatic 5-0 votes. A 5-0 vote will be earned and not taken for granted. I have no problem being part of a 4-1 vote, though I believe in some cases I can persuade others to come around. I also believe in keeping the public well-informed as issues develop to allow for input and criticism before it is too late.
- What qualities do you have that prepares you to serve on the City Council? My undergrad was at NYU what was then called the School of Commerce. I was then in business for over 20 years. I then started my second life taking graduate courses in the MBA program at Pepperdine and then entering and graduating from law school with a Juris Doctor degree.
Instead of being a lawyer, Johnson said he opted for public service as an investigator for the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs. He was the lead in many high profile cases involving various major frauds, as well as taking down a loan sharking ring, along with assistance of LAPD Organized Crime, Johnson said.
“Within my department, at various times, I ran the Consumer Protection, Mediation, Identity Theft and Real Estate Fraud units,” Johnson said. “I am well-known among prosecutors, not just in Los Angeles but also the California Attorney General’s office, and local prosecutors in San Diego, Orange, Ventura and Riverside County. I know how to uncover not just corruption, but waste as well. I am as comfortable doing a field investigation as I am going through accounting ledgers looking for problems. I will watch ever dollar of our money so it is well spent.”